Norway and Poland have agreed on the establishment of an NGO fund of about EUR 37 million for Polish NGOs under these mechanisms. The fund will be the largest of its kind in Poland. The seminar provided a meeting place for discussing target areas for the fund and opportunities for co-operation, thus creating awareness of the EEA Grants and a basis for networking.
The NGOs presented draft guidelines for the NGO fund at the seminar. This draft had been developed by the Polish NGO Office in Brussels and WWF-Norway. They had also had informal consultations with Polish and Norwegian authorities and with the Financial Mechanism Office in Brussels in a working group in preparation for the seminar.
The NGO fund draft guidelines served as the basis for the discussions at the seminar, and will be a valuable input into the design and operation of the fund. There were high expectations that the NGO fund will become operative later this year. The draft is available on the website of the Polish NGO Office in Brussels at www.ngo.pl. Further comments from the participants of the seminar may be submitted until 21 April. A revised proposal will be sent to donor countries by 1 May. The final decision to establish the fund will be made by the donor countries.
The seminar was jointly planned and organised by Polish and Norwegian government representatives in co-operation with the Polish NGO Office in Brussels and WWF-Norway. Thus, the seminar itself was an example of how non-governmental organisations can work together with government authorities to reach common goals, and how Polish and Norwegian actors can achieve results through co-operation under the framework of the EEA Grants.
In their opening statements, both Ms Krystyna Gurbiel, Undersecretary of State of the Ministry of Economy and Labour, and Mr Sten Lundbo, Norway's Ambassador to Poland, emphasised the valuable role of NGOs as partners for their governments. A modern democracy requires an active NGO community. Ambassador Lundbo expressed his firm conviction that the participation of civil society at large is vital to the long-term success of the EEA Grants. He said that NGOs have a particularly important mission when it comes to promoting crosscutting issues such as good governance, sustainable development and gender equality.
Mr Pawel Krzeczunowicz of the Polish NGO Office in Brussels chaired the seminar. Together with Mr Jan Jakub Wygnanski, President of the Association for the Forum of Non-Governmental Initiatives (Poland), and Mr Morten Eriksen, Managing Director of the Forum for Development and Environment (Norway), he presented the views of the NGO community in the plenary sessions. Mr Wygnanski said that the NGO fund under the EEA Grants was the best news the NGOs had had in many years, and that earmarked funds of this size will provide a unique opportunity for Polish NGOs. At the same time this large fund will be a great responsibility for the NGO community.
Mr Krzeczunowicz and Mr Rasmus Reinvang of WWF-Norway presented the NGO fund draft guidelines, which were generally well received by the seminar participants. The draft guidelines suggest that the fund should provide grants in three priority areas:
- Democracy and civil society
- Environmental protection and sustainable development
- Equal opportunities and social integration
After the plenary sessions, the seminar participants split up into three workshops covering the respective priority areas. Each workshop was led by a Polish and a Norwegian NGO representative. The workshops served as forums for discussing the NGO fund draft guidelines in more detail with a view to identifying possible deficiencies and suggesting further improvements.
The workshops also facilitated the discussion of future opportunities to develop project ideas and foster Norwegian-Polish co-operation. Some of the workshops split up into working groups to discuss these matters in more detail. A number of Norwegian NGO participants presented their competences and ideas to their workshop group.
The opportunity provided by the seminar to meet and exchange information and ideas was greatly appreciated by many of the participants.
The following events in Poland will provide additional opportunities for Polish and Norwegian NGOs to meet:
- V Baltic NGO Forum, Gdynia, 12-13 May 2005, organised by RCIWOP, under the auspices of the Council of Baltic Sea States. More information is available here.
- IV National NGO Conference (OFIP), Warsaw, 23-24 September 2005, organised by FIP.